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Stainless Steel in Contact

with Other Metallic Materials

Electrolyte

Metal 1
Anode

e-

Metal 2
Cathode

ISBN 978-2-87997-263-3

Diamant Building Bd. A. Reyers 80 1030 Brussels Belgium Tel. +32 2 706 82-67 Fax -69 e-mail info@euro-inox.org www.euro-inox.org

Materials and Applications Series, Volume 10

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

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CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

Table of contents
Stainless Steel in Contact with Other Metallic Materials
Materials and Applications Series, Volume 10
ISBN 978-2-87997-263-3
Euro Inox 2009

1
2
3
3.1

Introduction
The principles of galvanic corrosion
Relevant factors and examples
Electrolyte resistance

2
3
5
5

3.2 Wetting duration and environments

Translated and adapted from ARLT, N. / BURKERT, A /

3.3 The kinetics of electrode reactions

ISECKE, B., Edelstahl Rostfrei in Kontakt mit anderen

3.4 Cathode and anode area

Werkstoffen (Merkblatt 829), Dsseldorf, Informationsstelle Edelstahl Rostfrei, 4th edition 2005

Practical experience in different applications

10

4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4

Water and sewage treatment


Components in atmospheric conditions
Stainless steel in building and construction
Stainless steel in transport applications
Frequently asked questions
Preventing galvanic corrosion
Literature

11
14
15
18
20
22
23

Publisher
Euro Inox
Diamant Building, Bd. A. Reyers 80,
1030 Brssel, Belgium
Phone +32 2 706 82 65 Fax +32 2 706 82 69

5
6

Disclaimer
Euro Inox has made every effort to ensure that the information presented in this document is technically correct.
However, the reader is advised that the material contained herein is for general information purposes only.
Euro Inox, its members, specifically disclaim any liability or responsibility for loss, damage, or injury, resulting
from the use of the information contained in this publication.

Photo credits:
Atomium asbl / vzw, Brussels (B)
Centro Inox, Milan (I)
Bundesanstalt fr Materialprfung und -forschung,
Berlin (D)
David Cochrane, Sidcup (UK)
Benot Van Hecke, Hasselt (B)
Outokumpu, Tornio (FIN)
Thomas Pauly, Brussels (B)
Christoph Seeberger, Munich (D)
ThyssenKrupp Nirosta GmbH, Krefeld (D)
Schck Bauteile GmbH, Baden-Baden (D)
Viega GmbH & Co. KG, Attendorn (D)

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1

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

1 Introduction
Complex design requirements can make
it necessary to combine different metallic
materials within the same component. Also,
chance combinations can often be found,

sion potential of the metals in contact; hence


there is usually a corrosion hazard for the
partner material.
The risk of galvanic corrosion occurring

governed only by the availability of, for in-

depends, however, on a multitude of factors.

stance, fasteners or shims. In certain cir-

Besides the materials used, environment

cumstances, such mixed-material designs

and design are crucial. It is therefore diffi-

can lead to corrosion in one of the partner

cult to make a priori judgments about

materials. This phenomenon includes galvanic corrosion1, in which two different


metals form a galvanic couple.
As a result of the formation of galvanic
elements, accelerated corrosion of the less
noble material can occur. The latter may then
suffer a corrosion rate far higher than that to
be expected without any contact with the

the compatibility of materials. The present


publication describes the principles of galvanic corrosion and the main parameters
that allow designers to estimate corrosion
risk.

nobler partner metal. Corrosion-related damage such as unacceptable deterioration of


appearance, leaking tubes or failing fasteners can drastically reduce the service life of
a component and lead to premature replacement. In most technical applications,
stainless steel has the more positive corro-

Accelerated corrosion of a metal, due to the effect of a corrosion ele-

ment. Other factors include concentration elements, aeration elements


and active/passive elements.

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

2 The principles of galvanic corrosion


For galvanic corrosion to occur, there
must be:
different corrosion potentials of
the metals within a given system;
a conductive connection between the

naturally occur in the metal in isolation; however, the corrosive attack on the anode is
greatly accelerated. In some cases, the formation of galvanic elements can lead to corrosion in materials that would otherwise be
corrosion resistant in the environment in

two metals;
an electrically conductive humidity

question. This can be the case for passive

film (electrolyte) connecting both

materials such as aluminium, which can be

metals
Figure 1 shows the three prerequisites in
graphic form.
If galvanic corrosion occurs, the less noble material the anode is preferentially
attacked whilst the more noble material
the cathode is even protected against
corrosion. In fact, the principle of cathodic

locally polarised in a certain environment. In


such cases, localised corrosion phenomena
such as crevice corrosion or pitting corrosion
can be observed, which would not have
occurred without the shift in potential
caused by the formation of galvanic elements.

protection is based on sacrificial anodes


providing protection from corrosion.
The contact of two metals with different
potentials in an electrically conductive solution leads to a flow of electrons from the
anode to the cathode. The electro-chemical
reactions are the same as those that would

Electrolyte

Metal 2

Metal 1
e
Anode

Cathode

Figure 1
shows the three prerequisites in graphic form.

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

Contrary to widespread belief, the difference of potential in an electrochemical cell


alone is not a good indicator of the actual
risk of galvanic corrosion. It only indicates

Graphite
Alloy 625/ C-276
Superaustenitic stainless steel
Titanium
Alloy 400
Austenitic stainless steel grade 1.4404 (316 L), passive
Nickel
Ni-Al Bronze
90/10 Cupro-Nickel

whether or not such a risk has to be taken


into account. In this context, it should be
remembered that the numerous published
tables of the standard potentials of metals

Al-brass
Copper
Austenitic stainless steel casting

only provide an approximation of differences


of potential. The decisive factor is not the
difference of potential observed under standardised experimental conditions but rather
the actual difference of potential under real
operating conditions. This is why empirical
tables of galvanic series have been produced
for typical environments such as sea water.

Lead
Tin
Carbon steel
Cast steel
Al-2.7 Mg
Zinc
Aluminium
Magnesium
-2000

-1000

-1500

-500

500

Potential (mV SCE)

These position the potential of various metals in a given environment (Figure 2).
Awareness of the prerequisites of gal-

Figure 2:
The Galvanic Series in
sea-water at 10 C [11]

vanic corrosion and a proper understanding


of the examples in Figure 3 make it possible
to determine preventive action, which will be
discussed in section 5.

Figure 3:
Conditions in which
galvanic corrosion
cannot occur

Galvanic corrosion cannot occur


without electrically
conductive joints

in metals with no
difference of potential

Electrolyte

Electrolyte

Metal 1

Metal 2

Metal 1

Metal 2

without connection by an electrolyte

Metal 1

Insulator
(Metal 1 = Anode, Metal 2 = Cathode)

Electrolyte

Electrolyte
Metal 2

Metal 1

Coating

Metal 2

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

3 Relevant factors and examples


According to Faradays law, electro-chemical corrosion processes are directly related
to charge transfer, i.e. the flow of currents.
Currents or current densities are therefore

reduced and the shift of potential at the anode is limited, as illustrated in Figure 4.
Measurement of potential at the surface
identifies, in the case of an insulated anode,

frequently used to measure corrosion. If the

the position of the respective potentials of

conditions for galvanic corrosion are met in


principle, the total corrosion current Itot is

cathode and anode, independently of each

composed of a partial current from selfcorrosion Is (i.e. the part of the corrosion that
is independent of contact with other materials) and a partial cell current Iel (i.e. the part
of the corrosion due to the cell current between the partner materials (Equation 1).

in potential is observed. If an electrically

Itot = Is + Iel

(Equation 1)

other. In the transition area, a marked jump


conductive connection between cathode
and anode exists, a low polarisation of the
anode towards higher values is observed

Intensity of element corrosion is determined by the difference of potential between


the two metals (DU), the electrolyte resistance (Rel) and the polarisation resistance at
the anode (Rp,a) and cathode (Rp,c) respectively (Equation 2).

Low resistance

High galvanic corrosion

High resistance

Low galvanic corrosion

Insulated anode

No galvanic corrosion

Cathode

Iel

DU
=
Rel + Rp,a + Rp,c

Anode
Anode
Anode

Cathode

(Equation 2)

From this equation, inferences can be


drawn concerning the factors that determine
galvanic corrosion. These factors are critical
in determining whether or not metallic corrosion will become a technically relevant
problem. The effects of these factors will
therefore be discussed individually.

3.1 Electrolyte resistance


The risk of galvanic corrosion diminishes
with increasing electrolyte resistance. This is
because the reach of the galvanic current is

in electrolytes with high resistance (such as


water films resulting from condensation). In
the case of electrolyte films of low resistance
(salt water), a very strong polarisation is
measured. The higher the polarisation, the
higher the corrosion rate of the anode if the
material is active or the higher the probability of reaching critical (corrosion-initiating)
potential if the material is in its passive state.
Table 1 shows specific conductivity values of
various types of water.

Figure 4:
Influence of electrolyte
resistance on anode
polarisation

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

3.2 Wetting duration


and environments
There is a strong interaction between
electrolyte resistance and duration of wetting. This is of critical importance wherever
components are not permanently wetted by
watery liquids. As explained in the description of the prerequisites of galvanic corrosion, the electrolyte film plays a key role.
Without such a film, no galvanic corrosion
can occur. This implies that, in practice, any
combination of metallic materials is uncritical from a corrosion point of view if no electrolyte film is present. This is typical of interiors without condensation. In lighting
fixtures or interior-decoration components,
virtually any material combination can be
used, in normally aerated and heated environments, without restrictions in terms of
corrosion risk (Figure 5).
Both length of exposure and electrolyte

Table 1:
Typical values of specific
conductivity in different
types of water

resistance are strongly dependent on local


conditions. In marine, industrial or indoor
swimming pool environments, the probability of galvanic corrosion is significantly higher than in rural atmospheric conditions.
Figure 6 shows the influence of the environment on the corrosion rate of zinc, with and

Environment

Specific conductivity in (V cm)-1

Pure water

5 10-8

Demineralised water

2 10-6

Rain water

5 10-5

Drinking water

2 10-4 - 1 10-3

Brackish river water

5 10-3

Sea water

3,5 10-2 - 5 10-2

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

without contact with stainless steel. It


demonstrates that the proportion of cell
corrosion (i.e. the difference between the
corrosion rates) exceeds that of self-corrosion (i.e. the corrosion rate of zinc without
any contact with the stainless steel) in a
coastal atmosphere and in a sea-water
splash zone.
Besides ambient atmosphere, design
details play a decisive role. Factors that help
humidity films to dry quickly (adequate
aeration, prevention of crevices, free
drainage of rainwater) reduce corrosive
attack. Permanently humid areas in crevices
or covered areas, stagnant water and soiled
surfaces can considerably accelerate galvanic corrosion.
Figure 5:
As electrolytes are typi-

30

cally absent in normally


heated and aerated interior environments, the

Hot-dip galvanised steel

Corrosion rate in m/a

25

Hot-dip galvanised / stainless steel


Surface ratio anode / cathode = 1:6

combination of stainless
steel with other metallic

20

materials such as painted carbon steel does not


typically involve a risk of
galvanic corrosion in
such circumstances.

15
10
5

0
Urban
atmosphere

Near
steel mill

Coastal
area

Marine
splash zone

Location
Figure 6:
Corrosion rates of
hot-dip galvanized steel,
with and without contact
with stainless steel, in
different environments

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

3.3 The kinetics of


electrode reactions

3.4 Cathode and


anode area

The kinetics of electrode reactions are


expressed in Equation 3 by the polarisation

A factor in the calculation of cell current


density, iel (area-related cell current) is the
ratio of cathodic (Ac) and anodic (Aa) surface

resistance values of the anode and the


cathode. Differences in potential as low as
100 mV can lead to corrosion, while metals
with considerably higher differences of potential can be joined without difficulty. In
fact, difference of potential provides no information about the kinetics of galvanic corrosion. The kinetics of the reaction depend
on the metal. Titanium, for instance, reduces
dissolved oxygen much less readily than
copper. This explains why carbon steel corrodes more quickly in contact with copper

areas. It strongly influences the velocity of


galvanic corrosion (Equation 3).
iel =

Ac
DU
(Equation 3)

Aa Rel + Rp,a + Rp,c

As long as the cathodic surface area (the


more noble metal of the galvanic couple) is
very small in comparison to the anodic surface area (the less noble metal) no change in
corrosion behaviour is observed. This situation is shown in Figure 7.

than with titanium, although the latter has


higher positive potential than copper.
In this context, the formation of corrosion
layers also plays a decisive role. These can
significantly change the potential of a mate-

Electrolyte

Metal 1

rial and be an obstacle to the anodic and/or


cathodic partial reaction.

Metal 1

Metal 2

Figure 7:
As the cathode (metal 2)
is small compared to
the anode (metal 1),
no damage is caused.

Stainless steel
Figure 8a, 8b:
Stainless steel fasteners
on much larger galvanized steel components
do not normally cause
corrosion.

Galvanized steel

Galvanized steel

Stainless steel

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

Electrolyte

Metal 2

Metal 2

Figure 9:
Galvanic corrosion
is likely to occur if
the anode (metal 1)
is small and the
cathode (metal 2)
is large

Metal 1

Typical examples can be found when


stainless steel fasteners are used on aluminium or galvanized carbon steel components. Two practical applications are shown
in Figure 8. Even in corrosive conditions, this
material causes virtually no galvanic corrosion.
Under atmospheric conditions, it is

The opposite situation, however, can


cause a problem. If a small anode is surrounded by a large cathode, galvanic corrosion may occur, as shown in Figure 9.
Typical examples of such a situation are
shown in Figure 10. In these cases, it is clear
that, under corrosive conditions, the partner
metal may suffer accelerated corrosion.

sometimes difficult to quantify the active


proportions of anodic and cathodic surfaces.
For a practical evaluation, this may, however, not be necessary. Normally it is sufficient

Figure 11:
To prevent galvanic cor-

to consider the system in general. In material combinations, fasteners should always be

rosion, only stainless


steel fasteners should be
used on stainless steel
panels.

made of the more noble material, so the cathodic surface is small.


Stainless steel

Galvanized steel

Wood

Stainless steel
Figure 10a, 10b:
Practical examples of
the principle shown in
Figure 9 (galvanized
carbon steel in contact

Galvanized steel

with stainless steel, in


a marine atmosphere)

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

4 Practical experience in different applications


Extensive research and practical experience are available concerning the corrosion
behaviour of material combinations involving stainless steel, under different condi-

content, such as 1.4307 or 1.4404. Further


guidance can be found in the relevant literature, provided the corrosion system is considered as a whole.

tions. Some relevant results are shown in


Tables 2 to 5. Most results refer to stabi-

Apart from numerical values, experience


makes it possible to make some general

lized stainless steel grades with higher car-

statements, which will be summarised in the

bon content. In principle, the results are

following sections.

transferable to grades with reduced carbon

Table 2: Corrosion rates of various metallic materials in contact with stainless steel

Galvanic cell

Environment

Area ratio

Corrosion rate
(mm/a)

1.4016

Carbon steel
Zn 99.9
Al 99.9
Cu-DGP
Ti

Drinking water,
aerated

1:1

0.47
0.26
0.17
0.07
< 0.01

1.4541

SF-Cu

Artificial sea water

1:1
1:10
10:1
1:1
1:10
10:1
1:1
1:1

0.12
0.07
1.00
0.38
0.25
1.10
0.61
< 0.01

Carbon steel

Zn
Ti

Table 3: Corrosion rates of ZnCuTi in contact with stainless steel grades 1.4541 and 1.4571 in 0.1 N NaCl (aerated, CO2 saturated,
room temperature) according to DIN 50919

1.4541
1.4571

10

Galvanic cell

Area ratio

Corrosion rate
(mm/a)

ZnCuTi

1:1
1:5

4.39
1.43

ZnCuTi

1:1
1:5

3.88
0.91

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

Table 4: Corrosion rates of different metallic materials in contact with various stainless steels in an aqueous NaCl solution with 5 %vol. NaCl at
35 C, surface ratio 1:1 (DIN 50919)

Corrosion rate (mm/a)


Galvanic cell
Carbon steel
Hot-dip galvanized steel
ZnAl 4 Cu 1
AlMg 1
Cu-DGP
CuZn 40

X6CrMo17-1
1.4113
0.62
0.51
0.66
0.15
0.04
0.04

X2CrTi12
1.4512
0.66
0.51
0.66
0.29
0.04
0.04

X5CrNi18-10
1.4301
0.69
0.55
0.69
0.29
0.04
0.04

Table 5: Corrosion rates of different materials in contact with stainless steel grade 1.4439 in the North Sea (field test), duration 1 year

Galvanic cell

Area ratio

Corrosion rate
(mm/a)

1.4439

Carbon steel

1:1
4:1
10:1

0.31
0.75
2.10

1.4439

AlMg 4.5 Mn

1:1
4:1
10:1

0.17
0.26
0.95

1.4439

CuNi 10 Fe

4:1

0.07

1.4439

CuZn 20 Fe

4:1

0.18

4.1 Water and sewage treatment


Depending on its composition, the corrosive effect of water on stainless steel may
vary considerably: deionised water without
impurities is not corrosive (except at extremely high temperatures). Drinking water
and water of similar composition contains
moderate concentrations of chloride ions
(max. 250 mg/L, according to the Drinking
Water Directive). In unfavourable circumstances, these can lead to pitting or crevice
corrosion and, under the combined influence of high temperatures and chloride concentration, to stress corrosion cracking. In
most cases, austenitic CrNiMo grades such

as 1.4401, 1.4404 and 1.4571 are corrosion


resistant, if properly fabricated. There are also numerous cases of the successful use of
grade 1.4301.
In drinking water, the risk of galvanic corrosion is moderate. For many years, combinations of stainless steel, copper, copper
alloys and red brass have been successfully
used both for cold-water and hot-water
applications in tubes, couplers and tanks,
without damage from contact corrosion
(Figure 12). While carbon steel can be combined with stainless steel in low-oxygen
water, coupling galvanised steel and aluminium alloys risks galvanic corrosion in the
latter [2].
11

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

In sewage systems, conditions are less


obvious. A wide variety of water compositions is observed, some with high conductivity, and the risk of galvanic corrosion is
also increased by the high general corrosiveness of sewage to many materials.
Table 6 gives an overview of the compatibility of various materials in aerated sewage.
In soldered joints, choosing a corrosionresistant solder is critical.

Figure 12:
In plumbing, combinations of stainless steel
with copper and copper
alloys such as gun metal
are successfully used.

Table 6: Compatibility of materials in aerated sewage water

Material with a large area

Material with a small area

Key:

Carbon Steel
Cast iron

Zn
Galvanized steel

Al

Cu

Stainless
steel

Carbon steel / cast iron

+*

+*

o/

+*

Zn / galvanized steel

o*

+*

Al

o/

+*

+*

Cu

+*

+*

Stainless steel

Steel in concrete

+ good

o uncertain

poor

* Although combining these partner metals only has a negligible influence on the materials, this combination is not recommended because of the high self-corrosion rate of the less noble partner metal.

12

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

alloyed grades such as EN 1.4462, 1.4439,


1.4539, or 1.4565, or nickel based alloys.
Recommendations for preventing the corrosion of various metallic materials in water
can be taken from EN 12502, parts 1 to 5 [2].
The risk of galvanic corrosion essentially depends on the conductivity of the water (see
section 2). Deionised water is normally uncritical in this respect.
As a highly conductive environment, seawater tends to encourage galvanic corrosion.
Not only are parts made of aluminium alloys,

2,5

Corrosion rate in g/m2h

Sea-water (with typical chloride ion concentrations of about 16,000 mg/L) and similar high-chloride types of water cause high
corrosive stress and normally require higher

1,000 mm
150 mm
0.2 mm

1,5

0,5

0
0

10

12

Cathode/anode area ratio

Figure 13:
The influence of surface
ratio and distance between anode and cathode
on the corrosion rate of

zinc or galvanized carbon steel at risk, but


also those made of copper or gun metal.
Figure 13 demonstrates the influence of
cathode/anode ratios on corrosion rates in
material combinations involving stainless
steel and carbon steel. It is clear that in

rosion in ferritic and non-molybdenumcontaining austenitic grades, even at low

this highly conductive environment the distance between cathode and anode has no
significant influence. Metallic parts can be
prone to contact corrosion even if they are
relatively distant from each other, provided
an electrically conductive connection exists
(for instance, via a common earth).
There is a general corrosion risk in waterpreparation applications that bring stainless
steel into contact with activated carbon,
which is commonly used in filtration. In some
cases, particles of the filter material can
come loose and get into contact with the
stainless steel. The large surface area of the
filter material can then work as a cathode
and shift the polarisation of the stainless
steel 200 to 300 mV in the positive direction.
This shift can induce crevice and pitting cor-

chloride levels. An example of this process is


shown in Figure 14. Here, corrosion damage
occurred in certain feed water basins of a water works, with an average chloride content
of 150 mg/L, specifically affecting the stainless steel fasteners that join the filter-jet
base plates to the reinforced concrete. Pitting and crevice corrosion were only observed in those filter pools in which activated carbon was used as a filter material and
could come into contact with the fasteners
during rinsing operations. As well as the
specified 1.4301, 1.4571 and 1.4401
grades being used for the various elements
of the fasteners, ferritic stainless steel grade
1.4016 was used by mistake. Not surprisingly, this grade was the most strongly affected by corrosion damage.

carbon steel in contact


with stainless steel in
sea water (permanent
immersion in North Sea
water)

13

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

Figure 14:
Galvanic corrosion in the
stainless steel fasteners
of a filter basin at a water
treatment installation,
involving activated carbon: assembly (left) and
disassembled anchor
screw of 1.4016 stainless steel, showing loss
of cross section area
from corrosion (right)

4.2 Components in atmospheric


conditions

14

While an electrolyte is typically present at


all times in ducts and containers for aqueous

Because of the limited reach of the elements in ambient air, covering the stainless
steel in the narrow zone along the contact
line is usually sufficient to prevent galvanic
corrosion.

media, this is not necessarily the case for

Permanently wet crevices between stain-

components in ambient air. In such circum-

less steel and a less noble material, such as

stances, corrosion can only occur during ex-

aluminium or zinc or zinc-coated compo-

posure to humidity. The surface may not nec-

nents, can be problem areas. Elastic joint

essarily come into direct contact with rain or


splash water. Often, microscopic humidity

seals, which fill the crevice, are a proven remedy. Sealants, prone to embrittlement and

films may form through absorption of water


vapour from ambient air. Also, visible condensation may occur. Dirt and hygroscopic
deposits on components can have a significant influence on the duration of humidity.
Poorly aerated crevices, for instance under
washers or between overlapping sheets, can
lead to the virtually permanent presence of
humidity. In contrast to corrosion elements
in aqueous systems, the formation of elements here may only concern a very limited
area. The two materials only influence each
other within a very small zone along the contact line, without the larger surface of the
partner metal playing a significant role. In
these cases, surface ratio only has a limited
effect, so the well known surface ratio rules
do not apply in the normal way.

cracking within the crevice can, however,


make the situation worse.
Table 7 provides information on the compatibility of various materials under atmospheric conditions.

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

4.3 Stainless steel in building


and construction
The use of stainless steel in building and

and condensation, the duration of wetting is


the key factor. Occasional and short-term exposure to humidity films does not normally
lead to galvanic corrosion. Hence, design

construction is on the increase. Beyond its

factors are all-important. Factors favouring

architectural design possibilities, the mater-

the rapid drying of humidity films (good aer-

ials easy fabrication and high corrosion re-

ation, prevention of crevices, free drainage of

sistance are of paramount importance. Stain-

rainwater, smooth surfaces) reduce corro-

less steel is used for visible surfaces,


structural components and fasteners (such
as screws). The most usual grades are of the
18/8 CrNi and 17/12/2 CrNiMo types the
latter particularly for high-quality surfaces in
industrial and urban environments or inaccessible structural components such as facade supports. Having to join stainless steel

sion attack. However, permanently damp areas (in crevices or sheltered areas), stagnant
water and dirt can greatly increase the risk of
galvanic corrosion. Weathered parts from
which dirt is removed by rain and which are
sufficiently aerated to dry quickly are less

to other metallic materials may be difficult to

damp over an extended period and allow dirt

avoid. Corrosion behaviour critically de-

to accumulate.

vulnerable to corrosion than recessed areas,


which, although protected from rain, remain

pends on design factors: on surface areas

Although surface ratios are only of limit-

wetted by rain or condensation, in interior or

ed value in identifying corrosion risk, de-

exterior environments, the interaction of the


metals does not reach far and becomes rele-

signs with small anodes and relatively large


cathodes should generally be avoided. Un-

vant only in the immediate area along the


contact line.
In parts exposed to external atmosphere

less this principle is observed, galvanic corrosion is a possibility, even in well-aerated


areas.

Table 7: The compatibility of materials in ambient air

Material with a large area

Material with a small area


Carbon steel
Cast iron

Zn
Galvanized steel

Al

Cu

Stainless
steel

Carbon steel /
cast iron

+*

+*

+*

Zn / galvanized steel

+*

Al

o/

o/

Cu

Stainless steel

o/

Caption:

+ good

o uncertain

poor

* Although combining these partner metals only has a negligible influence on the materials, this combination is not recommended because of the high self-corrosion rate of the less noble partner metal.

15

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

Figure 15:
Fastening of a stainless
steel cover (on a facade
assembly) using galvanized screws: the screws
show white rust and initial discolouration (steel
corrosion) after one year
in urban atmosphere

Galvanized steel
Red rust
steel corrosion

White rust
steel corrosion

Stainless steel

Figure 15 shows an example. The upper


end of horizontal stainless steel sections in
a steel and glass facade was covered using

al combinations. In roof repairs, it is not uncommon to join larger surfaces of stainless


steel with other metals. Such combinations

two galvanized screws. Starting from the

can also be considered uncritical unless the

crevice between the lid and the screw, these

ratio between the stainless steel part and the

show marked white rust formation and even,

aluminium or galvanized part significantly

to some extent, corrosion of the base mate-

exceeds 1:1.
Figures 17 to 20 show practical examples
the
risk of galvanic corrosion in the buildof

rial. These phenomena were observed after


only about 12 months of service, which indicates that this is not a durable solution.
Stainless steel fasteners should be substituted for the galvanized screws.
In roofing technology both in new build
and renovation stainless steel is predominantly used for fasteners which are in contact
with other metallic materials or materials
with metallic coatings. Due to the favourable
ratio of anodic and cathodic surfaces, there
is generally no corrosion risk in such materi-

16

ing envelope being efficiently prevented.

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

Figure 17:
Fastening stainless steel
outer panels to a carbon
steel structure on the
Atomium, Brussels

Figure 18:
The stainless steel outer
panel is insulated from
the inner galvanized
steel panel by suitable
joints.

Figure 19:
Fabricating insulated
panels using stainless
steel for the outer shell
and galvanized carbon
steel for the inner shell

Figure 20:
To prevent galvanic
corrosion, the stainless
steel cladding is fastened
to the carbon steel inner
structure in non-humid
areas.

17

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

4.4 Stainless steel in transport


applications
In passenger cars and other road vehicles, stainless steel (ferritic grades with a
12 % to 18 % chromium content and austenitic grades with about 18% chromium) is
used for trim, exhaust systems (Figure 21),
fuel tanks (Figure 22) and, increasingly,
body and chassis components. In transport
applications, ferritic grades in combination
with coatings are a common option (Figures
23, 24, 25). There is also a long tradition of
austenitic stainless steels being used in rail
coaches (Figure 26), in many parts of the
world, without problems from galvanic corrosion.

Figure 21:
In automotive exhaust
systems, stainless steel
is the normal choice.
The rubber parts of the
fasteners prevent galvanic corrosion.

18

Figure 22:
Stainless steel is increasingly used for fuel
tanks. The fasteners
keeping them in place
ensure interruption of
electrical conductivity
at the joint.

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

Figure 23:
Simple insulation techniques make the trams
ferritic stainless steel
body compatible with the
carbon steel chassis.

Figure 24:
In this side wall of a commuter train, the structure
and outer panels are in
different grades of stainless steel. As these have
identical potentials, no
galvanic corrosion can
occur.

Figure 25:
Used for buses and
coaches, stainless steel
(usually a painted ferritic
grade) has proved compatible with a carbon
steel chassis.

Here, too, it is essential to avoid crevices


between stainless steel components and
less noble materials, in which corrosive attacks can occur due to dirt and humidity.
Once again, the crevices can be filled with a
suitable polymer. Another effective precaution against galvanic corrosion in transport
applications is the local coating of a contact
zone on the stainless steel side, as described above.

Figure 26:
Rail coaches with outer
panels in austenitic
stainless steel have been
used in many parts of the
world, without galvanic
corrosion problems.

19

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

Frequently Asked Questions


Question:
Is there a risk of galvanic corrosion if
stainless steel grades of different chemical
composition are joined?
Answer:
Between stainless steels of different

sufficiently corrosion resistant in the conditions concerned (Figure 27).

types (also among different corrosion-resis-

repair of domestic plumbing systems?


Answer:
No problems are to be expected when
stainless steel is combined with copper
plumbing, as both materials have similar corrosion potential in potable water. Plumbing
components made of hot-dip galvanized
steel can also be combined with stainless
steel. However, couplers of copper zinc alloys or red brass are recommended.

tance classes) there is generally no galvanic


Figure 27:
No galvanic corrosion
will occur between different types of stainless
steel, even if they do not
have the same corrosion
resistance.

Question:
Can stainless steel be used in combination with copper or galvanized steel for the

Question:
Can stainless steel rebar be joined with

20

corrosion, as the free corrosion potentials of


both partner metals are identical. However,

carbon steel in reinforced concrete?


Answer:
Yes, for carbon steel reinforcement, such

the corrosion resistance of each alloy must


be considered individually. Also the material with lower corrosion resistance must be

a combination does not normally raise corrosion questions, as the corrosion potentials
are identical. Such a combination can be

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

used to prevent corrosion, when the reinforcement penetrates the concrete or comes
into contact with tubes. The joint must be
well within the concrete, with a minimum

Stainless steel
Carbon steel

concrete cover of 3 cm. If the carbon steel rebar is in the active state (i.e. it is depassivated, due to the influence of chlorides
and/or carbonation), galvanic corrosion is

recommended, since the areas most at risk

possible. However, in most cases, this effect


is much less significant than that of the
inevitable element formation between active
and passive carbon steel rebar (galvanic
corrosion through an active/passive element), since the cathodic efficiency of stainless steel is much lower than of carbon steel
(Figure 28).

are additionally covered.

Figure 28: Given a minimum coverage of concrete and providing the


carbon steel is in its passive state, stainless steel
reinforcement can be joined with carbon steel
without risk of galvanic
corrosion.

Question:
Can stainless steel infill for parapets be
combined with carbon steel posts?
Answer:
If the design prevents an electrolyte (for
instance rain or melting snow) forming over
an extended period, such a direct contact is

Question:
Are washers made of insulating polymers

acceptable. Otherwise plastic bushes should


be used.

effective for preventing contact corrosion in


mechanical joints?
Answer:
Although this joint does not interrupt
metallic contact between the materials in the
area of the thread, such washers can be

21

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

5 Preventing galvanic corrosion


The obvious way to prevent galvanic corrosion is to select suitably compatible materials at design stage. If the materials that
have to be used could interfere with each

To reduce the cathodic effect of the stainless steel part, it is often sufficient to coat the
stainless steel around the joint (Figure 29).
The width of the zone to be covered depends

other, protective measures must be taken.

on the conductivity of the corrosive environ-

Section 2 provides guidance on the nature of


these measures. Figure 3 describes the prac-

ment. In components exposed to normal

tical possibilities:

ly conductive electrolyte films, it is often suf-

Electrical insulation of the components (insulators, plastic bushes or


polyamide washers)
Positioning of the joint in an area not
exposed to humidity
Coating a cathode or an anode and
cathode (either on large surface areas
or locally, near the joint).

room atmosphere and rather thin and weakficient to coat an area only a few centimetres
wide along the contact line on the stainless
steel side. In salty liquid films several millimetres thick, the effective cathode area becomes wider than 10 cm.

It should be noted that just coating the


anode is not a suitable way to prevent galvanic corrosion. Imperfection in the coating
or local damage, which are difficult to avoid
on-site, create a critical corrosion element:
any damage to the coating exposes a small
anode, which can then corrode rapidly.

Figure 29:
The prevention of contact
corrosion in galvanized
steel by coating a small
area on the stainless
steel side. Results of an
48-hour salt-spray test:
without a coating, galvanic corrosion induces
rusting (left), while coating stainless steel in the
contact area prevents
galvanic corrosion
(right).

22

Stainless steel

Stainless
steel

Galvanized steel

Coating on the
stainless steel

Galvanized steel

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

6 Literature
[1] DIN EN ISO 8044,
Ausgabe:1999-11
Korrosion von Metallen und
Legierungen Grundbegriffe
und Definitionen

[8] W. Schwenk
Probleme der Kontaktkorrosion
Metalloberflche 35
(1981) Nr. 5, S. 158

[2] DIN EN 12502


Teil 1 bis 5, Ausgabe:2005-03
Korrosionsschutz metallischer
Werkstoffe Hinweise zur
Abschtzung der Korrosionswahrscheinlichkeit in Wasserverteilungsund Speichersystemen

[9] K.-H. Wiedemann, B. Gerodetti, R.


Dietiker, P. Gritsch
Automatische Ermittlung von
Kontaktkorrosionsdaten und ihre
Auswertung mittels
Polarisationsdiagrammen
Werkstoffe und Korrosion 29 (1978)
S. 27

[3] H. Grfen,
Korrosionsschutz durch
Information und Normung
Kommentar zum DIN-Taschenbuch
219, Verlag Irene Kuron, Bonn (1988)
S. 37

[10] E. Hargarter, H. Sass


Kontaktkorrosion zwischen verschiedenen Werkstoffen in Meerwasser
Jahrbuch der Schiffbautechnischen
Gesellschaft 80
(1986) S. 105

[4] H. Sphn, K. Fler


Kontaktkorrosion
Werkstoffe und Korrosion 17 (1966)
S. 321

[11] R. Francis
Galvanic Corrosion:
a Practical Guide for Engineers
NACE International (2001)
Houston Texas 77084
ISBN 1 57590 110 2

[5] D. Kuron
Aufstellung von Kontaktkorrosionstabellen fr Werkstoffkombinationen
in Wssern
Werkstoffe und Korrosion 36 (1985)
S. 173
[6] D. Kuron, E.-M. Horn, H. Grfen
Praktische elektrochemische
Kontaktkorrosionstabellen von
Konstruktionswerkstoffen des ChemieApparatebaues
Metalloberflche 26
(1967) Nr. 2, S. 38

[12] GfKorr-Merkblatt 1.013


Korrosionsschutzgerechte
Konstruktion
(2005)
[13] Allgemeine bauaufsichtliche
Zulassung Z-30.3-6
Erzeugnisse, Verbindungsmittel und
Bauteile aus nichtrostenden Sthlen
(jeweils gltige Fassung)
Sonderdruck 862 der Informationsstelle Edelstahl Rostfrei

[7] H. Sphn, K. Fler


Kontaktkorrosion im
Maschinen- und Apparatebau
Der Maschinen Schaden 40 (1967)
Nr. 3, S. 81

23

CONTACT WITH OTHER METALLIC MATERIALS

24

Stainless Steel in Contact


with Other Metallic Materials

Electrolyte

Metal 1
Anode

e-

Metal 2
Cathode

ISBN 978-2-87997-263-3

Diamant Building Bd. A. Reyers 80 1030 Brussels Belgium Tel. +32 2 706 82-67 Fax -69 e-mail info@euro-inox.org www.euro-inox.org

Materials and Applications Series, Volume 10